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Starting violin - some advice please!

(19 Posts)
archfiend Thu 06-Jan-11 12:06:47

DD will be 6 soon and has been keen on starting the violin since she was about 4. I have put off the idea until now as I think she was too young to really be able to cope with lessons, practice and so on.

Friends of the family have a child who goes to a local teacher and know that dd is keen, the teacher has a vacancy coming up and they have passed on her number to me.

Having never played the violin, I know nothing about how it is taught, what to expect etc. The teacher has said that she would like to meet dd before committing to lessons which I am happy with as I don't want to waste her time or ours if dd isn't ready.

Can anyone advise on what sort of things I should ask/what to expect if we go ahead and arrange the meeting please? Think this would be 1 to 1 teaching rather than in a group.

OhYouBadBadKitten Thu 06-Jan-11 12:11:50

I would ask whether the teacher is one teaches to music exams. Learning an instrument and progressing through grades is one approach, but its not one that suits all people. Also ask about tuning the violin! It was a big issue for us (lessons through school initially) cos I havent a clue and dds ear wasnt developed enough. Very hard to learn to plan an instrument that is out of tune!

Mainly though you want someone who your dd likes and respects, you don't want to turn lessons into torture!

archfiend Thu 06-Jan-11 12:16:18

smile very good point on the tuning! I imagine the first few months (years?) will be fairly hard on the ears anyway if she does go ahead - no need to make it worse!

I think the teacher does grades for older children but not sure what the approach is for the younger ones. It's a good point to raise though, thanks.

Tangle Sun 09-Jan-11 18:31:06

If you worried about tuning, you could always get an electronic tuner which will tell you whether the string is in tune or how far out it is. If you do decide to do that then it might be worth calling into a store or ringing and asking for advice - I don't know much about them, but I notice that one of them only indicates at 10Hz intervals, which I'm not sure would be accurate enough (although it would be more apparent for me as I play the cello - frequencies are lower and there is less difference in frequency between the notes so 10Hz is significant in terms of intonation - it might be fine for a violin).

Re. the teacher, I'd imagine your friend is happy or wouldn't be passing her name onto you but there's no harm in asking for other references. It might give you the chance to confirm that what the teacher says about her methodology is born out by what she's done with other pupils.

Good luck

maggiethecat Sun 09-Jan-11 21:40:35

I would say that you need to see how teacher interacts with your dd and how dd responds. That's just one element though as you will never know how it will go until the lessons start.

Some basic questions that might help are: does teacher allow parent to sit in on lesson. You may or may not wish to do so but I have found that with a young child it's sometimes good to jot down a few points of instuction that you may remind dd of in practice (you'll find it's a steep learning curve for you too); does teacher make notes of things to work on; are there any performance opportunities eg end of term/year concert or any opportunity to play in a group occasionally - I think it says a lot about a teacher who takes the time to arrange even an end of year concert for all her students.

I would also ask teacher if she is very persistent about posture ie bow hold, violin hold, body in relation to instrument. You may want to ask this in a very casual way esp since you may not know much about this but posture is so important and can often get neglected.

Good luck!

katiestar Mon 10-Jan-11 22:48:16

If you ask at your local music shop, they will be able to tell you which teachers take little ones.
My DD who is 6 this week has had 2 lessons.The teacher is a lovely 'cuddly' woman but she has pushed DD too fast I think.We've had a few tears of frustration but she has eventually managed to play the pieces she has been given over the xmas hols.
I have had to support her a lot by buying a violin and learning along side her, btreaking everything down into baby steps ( she couldn't concentrate on reading the music doing the bow and positioning her fingers all at the same time) and most of all turning it into a game.

katiestar Mon 10-Jan-11 22:48:31

If you ask at your local music shop, they will be able to tell you which teachers take little ones.
My DD who is 6 this week has had 2 lessons.The teacher is a lovely 'cuddly' woman but she has pushed DD too fast I think.We've had a few tears of frustration but she has eventually managed to play the pieces she has been given over the xmas hols.
I have had to support her a lot by buying a violin and learning along side her, btreaking everything down into baby steps ( she couldn't concentrate on reading the music doing the bow and positioning her fingers all at the same time) and most of all turning it into a game.

iloverhubarbcrumble Mon 10-Jan-11 22:59:38

Agree with all that Maggiecat says - excellent advice. Good to meet first, also then to have a trial lesson or two, no committment, definitely with you sitting in for these at least.

At this age it's about the teacher's rapport - is she good with small children. She's recommended to you so that's a great start

Fact your DD is pushing to do this great - go for it - 6 definitely not too young - see what happens. It will be excruciating for a while (I played from age 7). But could be lovely one day!

applesandcider Mon 10-Jan-11 23:15:28

I agree wholeheartedly with Maggie too (hi Maggiethecat - namechange for me because of a stalky person so you probably won't remember me).

It's important that your DD feels comfortable and that you are comfortable with her teacher. Her teacher should help you with tips on how your DD should be practicing - don't worry too much about tuning at this early age.

falsemessageoflethargy Mon 10-Jan-11 23:18:57

katiestar - thats an interesting approach - my ds is just turned 7 and they learn fingerstrings in his violin lessons - much more laidback than going straight into proper music etc. DS is into his second term and only just bowing and plucking at the same time - for ages it was one or the other then one and then the other iyswim so that the positioning etc was right.

The hard bit is getting them to practice enough I think.

ZZZenAgain Tue 11-Jan-11 11:41:39

learning how to practise at home is an acquired skill. Once your dd gets into it, you may need to give a bit of thought and time to gently help her learn how to practise. By this I mean not simply playing over and over for instance a piece she is working on but breaking it down, slowing up and working on little problem spots until she is able to fluently play a piece confidently.

In the very beginning where they are not given that much to do, this is not so important but it doesn't take long IME before they are given a lot to work on in the week. No doubt the teacher will explain how she would like your dd to practise but she may not remember all that is said to her in a lesson. If it is possible for you to sit in on the lessons so you understand posture etc, I think it helps you to help her.

archfiend Tue 11-Jan-11 21:43:13

Wow, thank you all! My broadband broke so I was MN-less for a few days hence no replies. Some great advice here which I am very grateful for.

I have now spoken to the teacher on the phone and she sounds lovely. We will meet and have a trial in a month or so as she is busy until then, she has suggested inviting dd to a show she puts on with her pupils so she can see what they do and seems to be v keen on building a relationship with parents as well as pupils. She also mentioned that she spends quite a lot of time on getting pupils to hold the violin properly from day one which seems to be a good thing!

I am now really looking forward to meeting her with dd and seeing what happens next.

maggiethecat Wed 12-Jan-11 20:03:40

Hello applesandcider, I'm not sure who you are but have a feeling that you're one who has offered me invaluable advice in the past based on your experience.
(Bit naive about this MN stalky thing but hope things are ok now).

Archfiend, we've had our share of ups and downs since dd started violin but I think it's fair to say that over time as you better understand your dd in relation to the music (her needs/how she operates etc) it should get easier.

Sounds like the teacher is wonderful!

ImNotaCelebrity Wed 12-Jan-11 21:34:04

Archfiend - any teacher who puts on performances with their pupils on a regular basis is worth going for. She sounds great.

5 is lovely age to start. I'm teaching DS myself, and started just over a year ago when he was 5. He's doing grade 1 this term. As I'm teaching him myself (though I'm no longer a violin teacher 'by trade'), I don't have the benefit of concerts with other pupils, so I enrolled him with a local string orchestra when he'd been playing only 6 weeks. He could read open strings and basic rhythms at that point, and that social side of making music has done wonders. I also ask school to let him play once every half term - it's really important that he has the opportunity to perform, and gets a sense of occasion, as well as giving practice a purpose. (I'm currently trying to keep my 3 yr old away from the violin as she's desperate to start already - whatever her big brother does, she wants to do! grin)

Good luck with the lessons - I'm sure she'll have a great time. smile

archfiend Thu 13-Jan-11 11:59:03

smile thank you! She is very excited about it all, as am I. Just hope that she and the teacher 'click' when they meet as she has wanted to do this for so long I don't want her put off by not feeling comfortable with her teacher. I think they will though, dd pretty easy to get on with most of the time...

ZZZenAgain Thu 13-Jan-11 18:10:21

I'm sure it will be fine. Hope she enjoys it.

applesandcider Fri 14-Jan-11 00:33:37

Do report back archfiend. I'm sure we'd all like to know how things go....

archfiend Wed 20-Apr-11 22:34:44

Quick update, it's been a while! Have spoken to the teacher again and she unfortunately doesn't have any spaces until September now but as the summer term is so short she thinks that it would be better for dd to wait until then to start rather than having a couple of months of lessons then a couple of months off.

We are hopefully going to meet up in the next few weeks anyway and she has invited us to one of her concerts put on by her pupils which
is great.

So, not starting as soon as dd would like but I think for the right reasons. Still looking forward to it all and really pleased that dd has been invited to see people playing as it will give her a great idea of what to expect!

McMillanMusic Sun 12-Jun-11 19:12:02

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

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